Business

"Mini-golf, big fun"

"People who commute along State Route 303 might have noticed a new addition to the Northwest Golf Range and Pro Shop. Terraced into the hillside next to the driving range is a new 18-hole miniature golf course complete with a waterfall, a totem pole and antique mining and logging equipment. The $350,000 course is as challenging as it is attractive, even for proficient golfers.Little kids who have never had anything to do with golf can have a good time and serious golfers will be challenged enough by the course that they will want to come back again and again, said Devin Loudon, the resident golf pro at Northwest who said he plays the course almost daily.The course design is a work in progress, according to Robert Ross, president of Northwest Golf Range, who pointed out that holes can be altered by moving obstacles - keeping the game interesting for repeat players.Ross said he built the course because he saw a lack of recreational opportunities in the area for families.It's my goal to provide low-cost family entertainment in the county, Ross said. Until this was open all we had was a roller rink and the movies - teens didn't have much to do.The price for a round of miniature golf is $6 for adults and $4 for juniors younger than 14. Nine of the 18 holes are handicap accessible. Families with two or more children can play for the junior rate and special deals will be offered for large groups or parties. Ross hopes businesses will take advantage of the course to hold tournaments and that aficionados will sign up for leagues, which will start in May.Since the course opened March 10, business has been brisk, with about 300 players per weekend day and a steady stream after 5 p.m. on weekdays.It's been exceptionally busy ... If it keeps up like this we'll beat my first year's projections by about 60 percent, Ross said. The course's central location between Silverdale and Bremerton and its visibility from the highway might have something to do with its immediate success, but Ross noted that the course has attracted players from Port Angeles and surrounding counties. The putt-putt course and driving range, located at 368 N.E. Waaga Way, are open year-round for players who want to brave the elements. The driving range, open since 1986, has 48 stalls and costs $4 for a small bucket of balls or $7 for a larger bucket. Ross said the course has been in the works for years. He filed paperwork for permits in 1996, when he bought the course, but he ran into permitting obstacles and the project didn't get off the ground until recently. He expressed frustration that the county has formed a Public Facilities District with the intention of maximizing efficiency and collaboration in the development of recreational facilities in Kitsap County but that he, operating as a private business, has struggled to obtain the required permits to build a needed recreational facility.Permit problems notwithstanding, Ross and Loudon said they plan to expand the pro shop and add a deli or snack bar to the facility within the next six months. In addition, they would eventually like to see adjacent land developed into a family fun center with go-karts. "

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